AN INTERVIEW WITH VEN. GYATRUL RINPOCHE;
VEN YANGTHANG RINPOCHE AND THE RINCHEN
Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche and Ven. Yangthang Rinpoche are both senior
Nyingma lamas originally from Dhomang Monastery in Eastern Tibet. Their paths separated at the time of the communist
invasion of Tibet in 1959; since the 1970’s Gyatrul Rinpoche has been teaching and guiding students primarily
in the West, while Yangthang Rinpoche has been doing likewise in the East. They re-connected in the mid 1980’s
when the lamas met fortuitously at the Great Stupa in Boudhanath, Nepal. Since 1990, at Gyatrul Rinpoche’s
invitation, Yangthang Rinpoche has visited the USA four times and given many empowerments and teachings. Once again,
the lamas are joining their enlightened intention—Yangthang Rinpoche will bestow the Rinchen Terzod at Gyatrul
Rinpoche’s center in Alameda, California, Orgyen Dorje Den. The Rinchen Terzod has only been offered in the
United States once before, by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, also at Gyatrul Rinpoche’s request. Following are
some of his thoughts about Yangthang Rinpoche and the Rinchen Terzod.
You have known Yangthang Tulku
Rinpoche since your youth at Dhomang Monastery. Can you tell us about him?
Rinpoche is an emanation of Vimalamitra himself. In his past life he was also the great terton Lhatsen Namkha Jigmed
from Sikkim whose treasures are included in the Rinchen Terzod. But he is perhaps most well known as the
reincarnation of Dorje Dechen Lingpa. Yangthang Rinpoche was recognized as the tulku of this eminent terton by His
Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, by the Dalai Lama's own guru, and others.
And what about his early life?
Dhomang Terchen’s principal disciple was Dhomang Sogtrul, who
consulted with Retrang and Dudjom Rinpoche as to the details concerning the rebirth of his root teacher. They both
indicated that he would be reborn soon in Sikkim, India. At the very moment that Dhomang Terchen’s incarnation
was born, the sky thundered the details of his location. He was discovered exactly as described, born into the
Yangthang family. This is why Rinpoche is known now as Yangthang Rinpoche. A second emanation was born in Sikkim and
was brought up together with his older counterpart. When Yangthang Rinpoche was invited back to his monastery in
Tibet, the younger emanation also insisted upon joining him. The two young boys departed with their party, playing
and performing many miracles along the journey.
returning to Dhomang Monastery both tulkus were put in the hands of Sogtrul Rinpoche and many other lamas at
Dhomang. They were given the finest and best education with Khenpo Pema from the Palyul Mother Monastery as their
personal instructor. Thus, both tulkus were able to fully complete all their studies. In Tibet, before the Cultural
Revolution, Yangthang Rinpoche gave the entire Kangyur transmission and many other great empowerments. He became the
head of Dhomang Monastery and carried out all the administrative duties personally.
In 1958, the Communist
Chinese captured and killed Sogtrul Rinpoche and the younger tulku. Yangthang Rinpoche escaped to the region of
Dodrupchen Monastery where, later, he was also captured and imprisoned for twenty-two years. During this time he was
repeatedly tortured and endured horrible treatment from the Communists. Yet he remained optimistic and dedicated to
the Buddhadharma. He encouraged his fellow prisoners to secretly continue their practice and prayers, since one day
they would be freed. In fact, following the death of Mao-tse Tung, they were released from prison.
makes him such an esteemed lama?
Among the tertons, exceptional manifestations have been given the
title 'Lingpa' in acknowledgment of their remarkable qualities. Like Ratna Lingpa, Karma Lingpa, Chogyur Lingpa and
others, Dorje Dechen Lingpa revealed many volumes of treasures and was an undisputed realized master, a
manifestation of the wisdom and compassion of all the buddhas. As his reincarnation, Yangthang Tulku Rinpoche does
have the power and blessing to give the entire Rinchen Terzod cycle of empowerments, as so few lamas are qualified
to do. Moreover, he is of course also an emanation of Vimalamitra, just as Kyabje Penor Rinpoche was. Vimalamitra's
wisdom is inseparable from Guru Rinpoche's, the source of the blessings of all the revealed treasures.
What is the Rinchen Terzod?
The Precious Treasury of Revealed Termas was compiled in the eighteen
hundreds primarily by the great Jamgon Kongtrul Lodru Thaye, who was an incarnation of the great translator
Berotsana. This collection, which is a storehouse of the precious treasures, represents the essence of the ocean of
profound termas derived from the sixfold lineage of the Earlier Translation School of the Nyingmapa.
of the tertons are emanations of Guru Rinpoche, part of the skillful means of his enlightened activity to benefit
all beings. Guru Rinpoche was like the sovereign and his twenty-five disciples were like his ministers, serving his
enlightened purpose. He entrusted the ter (treasures) to them and through Yeshe Tsogyal's blessing laid upon them
the mandate to reveal them when they would be of most benefit in the world. The Rinchen Terzod is the collection of
these transmissions, all the profound treasure lineages together.
The scope of the Rinchen Terzod is
vast with nearly 700 empowerments in 3 months. How should students relate to such an extensive program? What
advice do you have for them?
If you have faith and trust, then absolutely Yangthang Rinpoche is
Vimalamitra. If not, then what do you have? No reason to go! If your faith and devotion are strong and good, then
you will receive good blessings. If your faith is okey dokey, then you will receive okey dokey blessings. If your
faith is just small, then small. If you have nothing of faith, then you get nothing. This is true not only regarding
Yangthang Tulku Rinpoche, but with any lama or teacher. It depends on the student's interest and faith. The blessing
does not belong to the lama, it belongs to the students themselves.
If you receive many empowerments but
don't want to do the practices, that is your own problem. At least, the important thing is not to break your samaya.
That is most important, for both teacher and disciple to keep their samaya pure. If you don't do the practices, at
least you receive the blessing of the empowerment. If you have a little bit of faith, then you slowly do get
everything, the blessings from Guru Rinpoche, from Kuntuzangpo, from the twenty-five disciples.
the opportunity to receive even one transmission or one day's worth of empowerments from such an amazing lama is
tremendous good fortune. To have him give the entire set of Rinchen Terzod empowerments is an inconceivable
blessing. It is my deepest wish that he is able to give this transmission without obstacle, and that many people are
able to come and connect with this incredibly auspicious event.